By Kristen V. Brown
San Francisco Chronicle.
EBay’s board will oppose a proposal filed by activist investors calling on the company to disclose the disparity in pay between male and female employees.
Arjuna Capital, a sustainable wealth management group that’s a division of the investment firm Baldwin Bros. Inc., urged the online auction site to produce a report by September that includes “the percentage pay gap between male and female employees, policies to improve performance, and quantitative reduction targets.”
The proposal notes that “a large body of evidence suggests that diversity leads to better performance.”
The board responded that the proposal was not “in the best interests of eBay and its stockholders,” according to a letter Arjuna shared with The Chronicle.
The San Jose company, which released its diversity numbers in July, said that while it has put several programs in place as part of a commitment to diversity, “the Board feels that the proposal would not enhance the Company’s existing commitment to an inclusive culture or meaningfully further its goal and efforts in support of workplace diversity.”
At eBay, 42 percent of employees are women, but they account for only 28 percent of the leadership. The company is among more than a dozen tech companies that have released racial and gender diversity data under pressure from media and activists over the past year.
That data has shown the extent to which Silicon Valley is overwhelmingly white and male, especially in technical and leadership roles. In a survey of 22 tech companies by the Rainbow Push Coalition, for example, there were just six black and three Latino top-level executives out of a total of 307. There were no women in top positions at two companies, Groupon and Comcast. And out of 189 board members at 20 technology firms, just one was Latino, three were black and 36 were women.
In its response, eBay noted that its 14-member board includes two women, and that it has “more than doubled the number of women in leadership roles and increased the share of leadership positions held by women.” In response to a request for comment, an eBay spokeswoman said only that “we plan to oppose the gender pay shareholder proposal.”
Natasha Lamb, director of equity research and shareholder engagement at Arjuna Capital, said in a statement that she was surprised by the board’s opposition.
“The eBay proposal is clearly in the interest of enhancing shareholder value,” she said. “Gender diversity is a key driver of innovation and performance, factors of particular importance to the tech industry.”